What I Have To Show For It

Remember when I started a blog?

I know, it's been a while. In fact, it's been a while since I wrote as regularly as I determined to when I set off into the "blogosphere" (who came up with that word? that word is ridiculous). In terms of "sorry", I do not regret the other things I have done in lieu of upkeep my poor little page. But I do apologize if you were waiting for something and it never came.

Here it is!

I've been very busy with my real writing project. It has swollen to enormous proportions since I grafted the original draft to the current draft. In fact, it's almost long enough to be classified as a novel. But there is still so much work to be done on it that I'm slightly staggered. So tonight I'm here, treading water, writing without actually drafting. That is how I tend to handle things by which I feel overwhelmed: do something- anything- else until you can't live with yourself unless you tackle your project. I read it a couple of passages out loud to some family and family friends while I was on vacation a few weeks ago, and it seemed to go over well. Maybe I'll take a page from  copy what my novelist friend Leri Lake did at the beginning of the year on her blog, and take a page from (nope, couldn't resist after all) my own manuscript to show you. Might be good luck.

I think I have a new working title. Well, subtitle really, and that leaves us with a novel in progress tentatively titled: The Book of John: The Battle Hymn.

I can't stop thinking about it. I'm trying to see the end before I think about the aftermath. It's so important for me to do this one thing that all other things are on hold until I get it finished. My routine is so precarious- every day feels like all-or-nothing. Either I hit all the marks I wanted to: exercise, dinner, writing, time with Bryson, or I totally surrender and watch Netflix on my iPad all evening. But everywhere I turn I'm reminded of what I should be doing. Like now, with Spotify on while I scrape for anything else to muse about with you, all I want to hear is my soundtrack playlists.

Aren't you glad you tuned in for this?

I am. It means a lot that you're here. It means a lot that you are still listening, still waiting. I'm grateful.

In fact... here. Here's a scene that might possibly (anything could go on the chopping block come the third revision, but I like how this goes for now) be found near the beginning of the book. Lucy, my protagonist, is on her way to join her friends, including her boyfriend Earl, at band practice when a stranger stops her to ask a few questions and then says something that really gets her attention:

[H]is eyes met mine again. “You’re a special sort, I can tell, my dear. Be aware of what truly defines you, in this cacophonous world. Other people will try to substitute their image for yours. Don’t let them.”

At this point my latent weird-ometer began to read positive, so I smiled and told him well, thank you for that thought, you have a nice day now. He gave me a smile. It was like a baby’s smile, absolutely pure and fond and full of goodwill. He gave a short bow, thanked me for my time, and we mutually turned from each other.
Then, I thought I heard him say “Good luck, Lucy.”

“I’m sorry-?” I began as I turned once more.

But he was gone. I mean, gone. My stomach dropped a little and my skin prickled. I must have imagined… what? That a stranger had said my name? That a stranger had been talking to me a moment ago, and then vanished?

My cell phone vibrated. I pulled it from my back pocket. It was Earl. I picked up.

“Hey,” I said.

“Hey,” he replied accordingly. “Are you on your way?”

“Yeah,” I said, still a little dazed. “Just stopped for a minute to get a snack. I’ll be there in a few.”

“Okay. Are you alright?”

“Yeah, why?”

“You sound a little… I dunno, not alright?”

With the phone to my ear, I shook my head and blinked several times, hard. “I’m fine. I just- something weird just happened. I think. I’m not actually sure. If it’s still bothering me by the time practice gets over, we can talk about it.”

...By the time I got to the Jukebox, I had forgotten most of the details of the incident. I knew there was a man but I couldn’t say what he looked like. I knew he'd asked how to get to the church, and that I told him. And that was all I remembered about it for a long, long time.

There, what do you think? 
No? Not enough? Okay, you glutton. I'll throw ya one more bone. 

Dad asked me to find him three songs that would take you to heaven or raise hell played in tip-top stereo sound in the great big musical box that used to be the truck I drove to school. Here ya go (warning, they will sound considerably less epic on your computer speakers):

Old School:
1) "Second Home By the Sea" by Genesis
2) "2112 Overture/The Temples of Syrinx" by Rush
3) "When the Levee Breaks" by Led Zeppelin 
OR 3) "'Heroes'" by David Bowie (duh)

New School (AKA The Ones Dad Might Not Like, But I'd Love To Hear Them Properly):
1) "Get Lucky" by Daft Punk (yes, really)
2) "'Til The End" by Yann Tiersen
3) "Aya" by Black Rebel Motorcycle Club

Top Track: "Make Me A Bird"

I was watching something the other day and something happened that doesn't happen very often these days.

I heard something I had to hear again, immediately. 

I nearly forgot to pay attention to the show, I was so busy trying to listen to the music. But the scene itself did in fact strike me as pretty interesting.

A lanky blonde Swedish kid with lips like Angelina reclines in a chair on the bottom of the vast, white basin of an empty indoor pool, lit from above by a single broad beam of bluish light. It's that lighting reserved for classic interrogation scenes, the kind that obscures everything not directly beneath it. He's brooding (which is typical of this particular character) and sulky (also pretty typical) and by now I'd say he has pretty good reason. He's working on a dark bottle of something, and a cigarette. There's a small stereo next to him, blasting out this song. 

And I just imagined the weird and fabulous acoustics of an indoor pool, and I thought to myself, if I were in that position, I'd probably play this song exactly. It reminds me of everything I like about the Donnie Darko soundtrack. It's like The Smiths, it's like Skream. I'm probably going to need to check out a little more of Elektrik People. 

One of those rare moments when the context and the content fit perfectly.

Don't you love it when that happens? Nothing at all could come of the spark of interest, or it could become the flavor of the month, or your new favorite band, but it doesn't really matter because you got what you didn't know you were looking for? 

It made me so happy. I'm going to listen to this song all by myself with my headphones on tonight, and shake my head in time when it says "beyond the comforts of the sick, sick game". 

Dedication: To My Dad (and all other dads who love Led Zeppelin)

My dad, very famously, hung onto his bell-bottom pants well into the Eighties. He once explained to me that he realized the whole bell-bottoms movement illustrated to him that Fashion was fickle, and the rules change on an unfair dime, so wear what you want whether it's trendy or not ("There was an Alice Cooper album that came out around that time called 'Flush the Fashion'... I took it to heart." -Dad). When bell-bottoms returned to the mode, he triumphantly held it over my mom ("See? Everything cycles back." -Dad) who had made him get rid of them, at some point ("Yeah, but never exactly the same way." -Mom).

Well, like father like daughter. I still internally mourn the return of skinny jeans because I love living in "flares". I got my first pair when I was twelve, I think, and fact: I still own a pair, purchased new in the last 9 months. I was a little more sensitive about my clothes when I was a middle-schooler, before I realized I could always just Flush the Fashion. A boy in my seventh grade once said to me, "Hey, Brooke! The Seventies called. They want their clothes back."

I took this arrow to the heart and laid bare my hurt (and confusion) to my father that night, who said "Well, you just tell him, 'Hey Trey, Led Zeppelin called. They said they like my clothes.'" 

Since we all know comebacks are a dish best served cold (right? oh, wait), I did tell that to Trey, the next day. He made a surprised face and said, "Your dad likes Led Zeppelin?" (In retrospect, since I was a bespectacled twelve-year-old grammar nazi with tucked-in t-shirts, he probably figured my dad was essentially pre-time-travel-encounter George McFly .)

I know it might seem that way, but I've inherited a lot more from my father than my passion for music. I look just like him, for starters. I have my dad's face, transposed onto a girl's body, with a reasonable filter of Mom. We've got the same green eyes and skinny, tan-resistant legs (by the way, thanks again to Trey for the comment "Day-um, girl, you got some white legs," which signified the end of my wearing shorts for the next seven years). We both are good listeners. We both have weird senses of humor. Neither of us have much use for the insincere. We both have warm hearts and we both love the Gospel. We both have testimonies of the good that comes from sharing it, he from his mission, me from my missionary experiences. I hope when I grow up I also develop his patience, his determination, his aptitude toward forgiveness, and his love for his children.

He doesn't always say the right thing, but when it matters most, I can always count on him for sage advice. He's a wise man, longstanding affection for bell bottoms notwithstanding. I thank my mom for taking a chance on the bachelor whose silverware was rusted together from disuse, who bought dog food weekly from a convenience store, and who unceremoniously dumped crumbled Doritos on top of the first meal she ever cooked for him. And I thank my dad for being the guy he is, because it definitely helped to make me the girl I am.

Yes, my dad likes Led Zeppelin. In fact, I think all dads like Led Zeppelin, and definitely, all dads who like Led Zeppelin should make it part of their child's education and upbringing. The future will probably be a little more secure if the upcoming generations know the virtues of Led Zeppelin. And friends, I am here to report it is capable hands.

As evidence, I submit Rigby, heretofore known as "The Boy" on the Internet. Named by his bodaciously cool parents, Adam and Lydia, after a Beatles song, Rigby charmed me into oblivion one of the first times I met him. We had a conversation a few months later that went something like this:

Me: (fiddling with the music) How about this band?
Rigby: (listens for a moment; lights up) Yeah! Led Zeppelin!
Me: Led Zeppelin? Why are they your favorite?
Rigby: (grinning) Because of "Black Dog".
Me: "Black Dog"? Is that your favorite Led Zeppelin song? Will ya sing it with me later?
Rigby: (nods, plays with Gameboy Color)
Me: When do you like to listen to Led Zeppelin?
Rigby: When I'm with my dad in the car.
Me: Do you sing real loud with it in the car?
Rigby: (flops his head in an emphatic nod, smiling) Yeeeeaaah.
Me: Any other songs you like?
Rigby: "Rock 'n Roll". (EDIT: He is also known to cite, among others, "The Rain Song" and... "Going to California" if I'm not mistaken?)
Me: What would you say to a friend who said he didn't like Led Zeppelin?
Rigby: (stumped, avoids the question by further playing with Gameboy Color)
Me: You probably wouldn't have a friend like that, huh. We don't associate with those kinds of people.

Then we put on "Black Dog" and had ourselves a good old time. Watch an earlier "Black Dog" jam sesh here.

Yes, thank heaven, stairway included, for Led Zeppelin. And bell bottoms. And especially, for good dads.

Since Spotify does not have Led Zeppelin (boo!), I have put together a makeshift (very makeshift) list, similar to the one for Mother's Day, that further represents me and my papa bear. You will find it here: Dad

For Your Playlist: Side A
1. "Be Free" by Loggins & Messina
2. "Far Cry" by Rush (live 2008 version)
3. "The Pretender" by Jackson Browne
4. "John, I'm Only Dancing" by David Bowie
5. "Rich Girl" by Hall & Oates
6. "Cosmik Debris" by Frank Zappa
7. "Mistral Wind" by Heart

For Your Playlist: Side B
1. "Harvest Moon" by Neil Young
2. "Pancho and Lefty" by Merle Haggard
3. "Victim of Changes" by Judas Priest
4. "Enter Sandman" by Metallica
5. "Shape of My Heart" by Sting
6. "Dogs" (live version) by Roger Waters

"I have no time for your cynic's mind": Mumford & Sons (Concert Post)

So, how was Mumford and Sons round two?

Everybody who's known me longer than a year or two (or knows me really well) knows I saw Mumford and Sons in 2011 when they last came to Arizona, for their Railroad Revival Tour. It was one of the best concert experiences I have ever had, although about 90% of the rest of the attendees would disagree. I got lucky and wriggled to the front long before the Gentlemen of the Road took the stage- I'm not one of those jerks who lunge through the crowd at the last minute, drunk and/or toting a girlfriend who whined about not being able to see. (Obviously I wouldn't be toting a girlfriend in any condition, but you know the front-row usurpers I mean.) Short people  single girls have it easy at general admission shows. Look up (way up) from under your lashes at just the right tall wifebeater-clad bro guys and you practically part the red sea, because you take up so little space that nobody minds if you stand in front of them, and they like to feel gallant. Mumford & Sons held their last Arizona show in a parking lot between some apartment complexes and the railroad tracks- and they probably oversold it just a little. I hear the people in the latter half couldn't see a darned thing.

But I was there, all by myself, and by the time the first two acts- the fabulous Old Crow Medicine Show and the breathtaking Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros- finished, I was about three or four "rows" back. Alex from ESMZ even hopped over the fence to fraternize with us and I gave him something like a slow motion rapturous high-five. (Side note, I still don't listen to Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros very much but they blew my mind with their live show.) We'd been standing for at least three hours by the time Mumford & Sons took the stage but the moment they did, a kind of euphoria swept the crowd. 

They were a much younger band, then. I know it was only two years, but it makes a big difference in band years. Musically speaking, they were not so good as they were on Wednesday, I think. Not that they were bad, mind. Not even close to bad. But I was still in shock of the Edward Sharpe business and the thought crossed my mind that they were good in concert, but not maybe great. But the spirit of the audience rose and rose, and we sang along, every word we knew. In fact, so many voices joined in the singing that more than once the audience drowned out the band. Yes. Just like how it happened according to Beatles lore, with screaming overpowering the amplifiers, only this audience was singing. 

A girl a few paces from me actually cried. I watched her passionately beat her fists in the air and bawl out the lyrics to "Winter Winds" as tears fell from her eyes. I've never seen that before.

Nor have I ever seen, before or since (although this is very circumstantial), how a crowd of people actually formed on the rooftops of the aforementioned apartments throughout the night. It gave one a feeling of being completely and utterly surrounded by music lovers, and that can really go a long way to connecting you to the music. 

The boys debuted "Lover's Eyes" that night, which would appear on Babel and it was so wonderful I paused to make a note of the lyrics. "Lord, forget all of my sins/Or let me die where I lie/Beneath the curse of my lover's eyes." Quintessential Mumford. Ok, so they never deviate from their favorite rhyme scheme. Ok, so sometimes they wax a little cheesy. But the lyrics (and the banjo/mandolin usage, and the fact that Marcus plays the drums and sings at the same time) are my favorite part of the Mumford and Sons act. I love, and always have loved, the way they capture what you might call big little moments. 

I've read criticism of Babel that complained that it was still playing the same everyman archtype- an average man's interactions with God and love, more melodramatic than momentous- that Sigh No More did. I think that if you've ever felt how big small moments can be, you know how much they resonate. Some people do not understand how strong such a frail thing as faith can feel, when you exercise it. That is what M&S's more spiritual songs make me think of: that moment when you discover, or rediscover, the power of small and simple truths. I can't even tell you how it felt, in my personal experience, to have left a bishop's office with a temple recommend in my hand after several years without. But the boys captured it to a degree when they wrote "The Cave". To most people, it was a little moment. To me, it was huge, swelling: "'Cos I need freedom now/and I need to know how/to live my life as it's meant to be." Mumford & Sons is, to me, the soundtrack to both struggles and, more importantly, second chances.

Anyway, the best part of the entire evening in April 2011, the night before my epistemology final, was the very end, when everyone on the train- all three bands, families, crew, everyone- got onstage together to sing a couple of songs, including "This Train Is Bound for Glory" by Woody Guthrie. The song lasted about eight minutes and it blew my mind. It was so genuine. Even the children up there with their parents were singing and wriggling with camaraderie. This, I remember thinking, was how music should always feel. Like being together joyfully with your loved ones. Oh, and the bearded, strumming ghosts of the folk singers who came before you. 

There was no such grand finale to the show on Wednesday. But that was ok- after a dynamite closing number ("Dust Bowl Dance") the encore was 2/3 acoustic (an intimate cover of "I'm on Fire" by Springsteen, & "Reminder", plus a full-throttle rendition of "The Cave"). I wasn't in the front- I was in the back, on the lawn, where the dust and grass and marijuana smoke were tickling my allergies. But that was ok too- I was with my irrepressible husband, and my friend Caitlin and her sister Tory. The unified crowd did not overpower the band this time. But that was ok too- it let their musicianship really show through, and I was proud that they, like me, had grown into themselves since the first time we met. I still thrilled and my heart felt full to bursting. What more could you ask from a band, or from a show, than to be sorry when it's over? 

In answer to your question, the second time was still really awesome. But I'm glad I've seen them twice.

If you've never heard Mumford & Sons (where have you been?) here's my favorite picks, even though they only have 2 albums and an EP or two's worth of material available. No Time For Cynics is the name of the Spotify playlist, and these are the tracks:

For Your Playlist: Side A
1. "I Will Wait" from Babel (I was disappointed with it as a single but it grew on me in a big way)
2. "The Cave" from Sigh No More
3. "Roll Away Your Stone" from Sigh No More
4. "Below My Feet" from Babel (My favorite)
5. "Dust Bowl Dance" from Sigh No More 

For Your Playlist: Side B
1. "Awake, My Soul" from Sigh No More 
2. "Lover's Eyes" from Babel
3. "Not With Haste" from Babel
4. "Devil's Spoke/Sneh Ko Marg" from the Dharohar Project EP with Laura Marling, & Dharohar Project
I actually wanted to make it "To Darkness" which is the early version of what became "Broken Crown" on Babel but Spotify's copy is missing the last half of the song... :(
Bonus tracks:
5. "Janglin'" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
6. "James River Blues" by the Old Crow Medicine Show
7. "I Will Wait" cover by Gavin Mikhail
Covers are a good way to tell if you like the song itself- more on that in another post. I thought this was a beautiful cover of a beautiful song.

My prince & me, 6 months 
"Now you can have butterfly shoes AND go to Mumford & Sons."

Dedication: To My Mom (Or Why A Rock & Roll Baby Has Country Roots)

Saturday mornings at 2045 N. 63rd Place.When my siblings and I had squeezed all the possible life and enjoyment out of non-cable kid-oriented programming, it was time for chores. We'd shuffle and lollygag like any children might, I guess, but eventually (around 10:15, maybe) we'd find ourselves with our little shoulders to the wheel.

I can't recall anybody having specific, regular chores we did every week. But I remember feeling like I did a lot of dishes. Standing on a wooden stool, up to my elbows in soap suds, and with the belly of my shirt getting progressively wetter, I usually passed the time imagining myself horribly misused, like some nine-year-old Cinderella. The kitchen faced eastward, toward the back yard, where four citrus trees- tangelo, lemon, tangerine, grapefruit- stood in a row along the cinderblock wall on the other side of the lawn (and in the summertime, the above-ground pool), punctuated by a sandbox and swingset on one end, by a trampoline on the other. My parents basically built the landscape, front and back, up from the wild wild western nothing, and the backyard was everywhere to me- it was Africa, it was Floren, it was the doomed Titanic, it was New York City... and it shimmered and mocked me behind the window where I was slaving away over dirty dishes.

My fantasies and daydreams had to fight through one significant distraction: Mom's music. The stereo supported six CDs and I do believe we listened to the same handful of albums every week (except at Christmastime) for seven or eight years. Creedence Clearwater RevivalVan MorrisonSheryl CrowStingChris Isaak, and Lyle Lovett were the voices of Saturday. This was before I even liked music, much less knew the difference between thumbs up and thumbs down over it. And they also had to fight over the sound of the vacuum, or over the sound of Mom singing along.

There are minutiae-sized holes in the tapestry of the memory that bother me, like what all was on the windowsill of that kitchen window, or what kind of dishes I was washing, or what anybody else was doing (although I can tell you we preferred sectional couches in the family room- first a smushy second-hand brown one, then a mottled multicolor/green one). But all I really need to remember is the most poignant part of Saturday morning chores: Mom.

Sometimes she'd stop whatever she was doing and shout for us all to come join her, and she'd turn up the stereo and sing and dance to "Brown-Eyed Girl". Being old enough for this moment to brand itself into my memory, I was definitely old enough to think I was too cool for dancing in the family room with my family. I was still young enough to not notice that Mom doesn't really sing that well, though- a nonjudgment that persisted with me for a long time. After all, what child, having been born of goodly parents, does not think of being sung to by Mom as a distinct pleasure in life?

Anyway, I think usually I stayed right where I was at the sink, imagining myself the only one who did any work around here, while my hoodlum family played and frolicked (and maybe half an hour later I'd be done with the dishes). I wish I hadn't. I wish I'd gone running to Mom then as I did to Dad when he came home and showed her I loved her by dancing with her and singing out loud too. At risk of waxing sentimental, I wonder if she didn't stand at the selfsame kitchen window more often than we were aware, watching over us through our treacherous journeys through Wonderland or Oz or wherever the backyard was that day.

I can say this: my mother's everyday efforts made my childhood idyllic, safe, and happy. She taught me, she loved me. If I didn't know it then, I know it now. To this day when I do dishes, by myself, I sing "Brown-Eyed Girl" and hope that someday I will have a household just as warm, lively, and rich with love of the Lord and of each other.

It was both Mother's Day and my mom's birthday this month, and though it's late, I hope you don't mind the proverbial trip down memory lane, but this merited a double LP-style list called M<3M.

Side A: Our Old Playlist (Sounds of Saturday Morning)
1-3. Creedence Clearwater Revival: "Susie Q", "Lookin' Out My Back Door", "Hey Tonight"
4-6. Van Morrison: "And It Stoned Me", "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You", "Brown-Eyed Girl"
7-9. Sheryl Crow: "If It Makes You Happy", "Maybe Angels", "A Change Would Do You Good"
10-11. Lyle Lovett: "Don't Touch My Hat", "Fiona"
12: Sting: "If I Ever Lose My Faith in You"

Side B: Our Karaoke Music (Sounds of Sharing Music with Mom)
13. "Delta Dawn" by Tanya Tucker
14. "I'm Trying To Be Like Jesus" by Janice Kapp Perry
Ok, so we didn't hear this one on the radio but this is one song I loved to hear Mom sing to me.
15. "Sold [The Grundy County Auction Incident]" by John Michael Montgomery
16. "XXX's and OOO's (An American Girl)" by Trisha Yearwood
17. "Real World" by Matchbox Twenty
18. "Everybody's Free (To Feel Good)" by Sun Tan
19. "Lucky Denver Mint" by Jimmy Eat World
20. "Bring Me To Life" by Evanescence
21. "Bubble Toes" by Jack Johnson
22. "The First Single" by The Format
23. "Pepper" by a band with a distasteful name (sorry guys. that's what you get)
24. "Selfish Man" by Flogging Molly
25. "Life Less Ordinary" by Carbon Leaf
26. "Mama, I'm Coming Home" by the Vitamin String Quartet

"Who needs to be cool? Life's amazing.": Ozzy Osbourne

After having finally gotten my fill of the new Bowie album, I transitioned into a Rush CD, then to the Killers, then to The Paper Route, and then, out of nowhere, I popped in Ozzy Osbourne's 2010 effort, Scream. Because, after all, it is now the Merry Metal Month of May.

I say "effort" with a little smugness. Most of it comes from having seen Ozzy on the tour for this album and being actually disappointed- the first time that's ever happened to me. Anybody who's talked with me about live acts knows how dissatisfied that show left me. He spent more time trying to rile up the audience than trying to entertain us, and this I could tell from even my nosebleed seat. He was audibly off-target too. I mean, I noticed. I know enough about art to understand that sometimes it's not until the last five minutes that everything comes together. I am patient enough to wait and see, try to connect and get into it, if I don't jive with the project right away. Not this time. "War Pigs" turned out pretty good, and "Shot in the Dark", I think it was, was not dismal. "Bark at the Moon" wallowed at the other end of the spectrum, where most of the rest of the show hung out.

Guys. He led his own encore chant from backstage. Seriously. Empty stage, mumble of crowd, and then his voice on the microphone: "Come on, everybody: Oz-ZY, oz-ZY..." And he wouldn't come back out til everyone was playing along.

To be fair, the band was tight. Slash was promoting a solo album at the time and he was awesome as an opener.

I felt bad about it. I wanted that show to be good. I sent all the positive vibes I could, which usually works when I'm not sure I'm tuning in to the musician's station just right. Not even the power of positive thinking could change that show into a great, or even a good, show for me.

So, I'm sorry, Ozzy. I once waited about six hours in line to get your signature in your autobiography. I was about your three thousandth signature that day, I think, and someone told you "This is the last book," and you looked up with a glimmer of hope on your face. Then you realized there were two hundred more people behind me, with vouchers to be signed because the physical copies of the books were sold out, the last one to me. And you said nothing. You looked down and kept on signing. I felt bad for you then, too, but in a different way. A full day of book-signing is no place for a mighty rock star. After all, I like you. I even slipped "Mama, I'm Coming Home" on a mix CD I made for my mom when I left for college, even though she'd banned you from the house. I taped a radio interview you did for Nights with Alice Cooper, once:

ALICE: So, you're not really the Antichrist, then.
OZZY: Me? I thought you were.
ALICE: Well, I figured it was either you or Bono.
OZZY: [laughs]
ALICE: If Bono becomes President of the World Bank, he's definitely the Antichrist.

Don't tell me there's no love here.

When I was in high school, one of my best friends really dug Ozzy & Black Sabbath. Ozzy was his Bowie. (Which also makes me feel sort of smug, since Bowie is Ozzy's Bowie, along with John Lennon, I am told.) This is the same music-loving friend who gave me Pink Floyd, and Johnny Cash, and Jim Croce, and Cream. It was back when we first met, at that same table in the back of Spanish class. Mid-semester, probably. We'd finished our stuff for the day and were goofing off as was our wont (he more conspicuously than prim freshman Sandra-Dee me), talking about music. He asked me if I liked metal. I told him (primly) that I hadn't much experience with it. He asked me if I liked Ozzy. I said again, I hadn't had much contact but I knew his reputation from the TV show.

With the air of a doctor prescribing something to a particularly sensitive patient, he pulled out his discman (this was before iPods, but he was one of the first to get one, BTW) and handed me his headphones. And he put on "Dreamer".

O my little brother, you never could quite get the hang of me, could you? I never did make it easy and I certainly never made it fair, but I told you I liked Judas Priest! You thought "Dreamer" was all I could handle? We're not friends anymore by any long shot or definition, but there are times when I rerun those memories in my mind like episodes of Firefly. There is such a dense concentration of change and growth and self-realization in those memories and others like them that it is hard to look upon them, even the painful ones, without appreciation and fondness. Wherever you are, I wish you well.

So, this week I'm revisiting Scream, burned for me by a former boss with whom music was the only thing I had in common. (Amazing what music can do for people who otherwise maybe wouldn't be very friendly.)

There are some really fun things about this album and there are some really forgettable things. I can listen to the first four tracks ad nauseam and totally leave the rest. You, however, don't have to leave the rest. You can just have the good stuff, and here it is, with the tragic Spotify exclusion of a cover of the BeeGee's "Stayin' Alive" featuring Dweezil Zappa (sold separately here.): Life's Amazing: Ozzy Osbourne

For Your Playlist: Side A
1. "Desire" from No More Tears
2. "Let It Die" from Scream
3. "All the Young Dudes" from Under Cover
4. "See You on the Other Side" from Ozzmosis
5. "Rock & Roll Rebel" from Bark at the Moon

For Your Playlist: Side B
6. "Centre of Eternity" from Bark at the Moon
7. "Fire in the Sky" from No Rest for the Wicked
8. "Breakin' All the Rules" from No Rest for the Wicked
9. "Dreamer" from Prince of Darkness

No, I never really did take to Black Sabbath, although I love their name.

Top Track: "Roadhouse Blues"

I'm working on the novel tonight.

It all started with a memory. It's a memory I knew would be useful even as it happened. So I cast it in bronze and ran my fingers over it for years, waiting for it to tell me why. It's beautiful, not so much because of who was there, but because of who I was then. I won't tell you what it looks like, or it won't be new when you read it in its new fabricated context. But because I am there tonight, I will take you there, if you close your eyes and promise not to peek.

You'd feel the heat of mid-summer. You'd smell the musts and secret smells of a worn old building. You'd feel short carpet worn to felt beneath your fingers if you sat on the floor. If you hugged the same person I did that day, their hair against your cheek is damp from a recent shower, and smelling of a familiar drugstore shampoo. You'd have a smile on your face because nothing existed outside of this moment, past or future. You are heedless of anything sad or scary or uncomfortable that lurks only about half a month away. Right now, you feel like Henry David Thoreau, sucking the marrow of life.

And best of all, you're hearing this: The Doors: "Roadhouse Blues"

It might be the first time in your life you've ever heard The Doors and liked it. And you'll never forget it.

I think this song is off the chain. "Roadhouse Blues", that is. And in typical non-musical fangirl fashion, I cannot articulate why. It could be the piano, rolling along nonchalantly with an occasional high-five to the harmonica. It could be the way my head wants to nod with the jaunty rhythm. It could be that raspy screech so unlike anything else in the song: "SAVE MY CITY!" or it could be the quintessential bluesy structure of the lyrics, repeats and rhymes- so simple but somehow profound. More likely it's the sum of all these parts that makes this song into one of those songs that to me, is so satisfyingly classic rock 'n roll, I could listen to it on repeat a dozen times at least.

That's the kind of passion I'm trying to recreate in my own way. That's the kind of richness I want to share, the way I feel about music, almost as if it really COULD "save your mortal soul". It's hard, like catching the proverbial lightning in a bottle. But if I can do it, it will be worth it.

Incidentally, I still do not habitually listen to The Doors. My knowledge of them is quite cursory. My favorite time to hear them is under the summer sun, on my parents' boat, smelling like sunscreen, and sitting contentedly on damp towels while we eat lunch. But they are growing on me.

I had the day off yesterday and found this little jewel in my feed on Twitter. Enjoy.
Jim Morrison on Why Fat Is Beautiful